How child sex predators 'groom' their prey

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Sometimes the words are too hard to say, and the wounds cut too deep.

At the Center for Child Protection, therapists use music to help heal from sexual abuse.

"I think it's about hearing the sounds and regulating their body,” said Meagan Webb, former forensics interviewer now director of team relations.

Webb is in charge of helping oversee the policies and procedures that govern the Travis County Child Protection Team.  The team is made up of local law enforcement, Department of Family and Protective Services, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, Dell Children’s Medical Center, along with the Center for Child Protection.

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“You hear all kinds of stories,” said Webb.

Webb and her team are helping more and more kids each year. Their case load is up 20 percent this year.

“While that sounds negative, I see it as bittersweet because it means we are reaching the community,” said Tara Powdrill, Communications Manager for Center for Child Protection.

Most of those children were “groomed” by their predator.

Case Loads at the Center for Child Protection:

2016

  • 56 percent Sexual Abuse;
  • 17 percent Physical Abuse
  • 16.5 percent Witnesses
  • 7 percent Multiple Abuse
  • 3.5 percent Other

2015

  • 63 percent sexual
  • 15 percent physical abuse
  • 5 percent multiple
  • 13 percent witnesses
  • 4 percent other

2014

  • 65 percent sexual abuse
  • 12 percent physical abuse
  • 5 percent multiple
  • 16 percent witnesses
  • 2 percent others

Last month, The KVUE defenders warned about child sex trafficking happening in our area.

This past weekend, KUVE told you a 13-year-old was found in Mexico in the hands of a predator.

“Grooming” happens over a long period of time.

Most groomers caught in Travis County live near their victims.  Many times, it's their own family.

Here’s how Webb says it works:

 "It starts with small innocuous secret keeping. Maybe your child isn't allowed to have a soda or candy or supposed to be watching a pg-13 movie. This person will allow them access to those things, and then they're going to say you can't tell your parents about this because you weren't supposed to be doing that and they'll get mad if they find out. You wouldn’t think that small things like that would build up, but they do.  It leads to bigger secret keeping.”

The grooming process makes it hard for the victims to reach out to parents.

The Center for Child Protection suggests you get to know each person with whom your child spends time. Also, monitor all social communication. Each day, ask open-ended questions about the day. Follow up those questions, not allowing a “yes” or “no” answer.

For more tips on protecting your child from abuse, click here.

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Have a story idea for the KVUE Defenders? Email them defenders@kvue.com